Sonntag, 30. November 2014

1 dough - 2 kinds of cookies + "the sweet jingle of the cash registers…”

Just in time for the first day of advent I have 2 kinds of cookies for you today.
What’s special about them: they are both made with a super easy chocolate dough – which means you only have to make an effort once!
The dough is foolproof to make, always successful, doesn’t take long and, when cooled, can be rolled and cut out very easily – perfect for small kids’ hands.

I have always wanted to make the reindeer cookies – the Nutella-Spekulatius* bars are an invention of my own. 

Chocolate shortcrust pastry – basic recipe 

1 stick plus 3½ Tbsp Butter
1 egg
2 and 1/3 cups flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt

1. Mix egg, butter and confectioner’s sugar until frothy.

2. Sift the flour and cocoa powder and add to the rest of the ingredients – knead with an electric mixer just until everything comes together, knead briefly by hand, until the dough is smooth and shiny – not too long!

3. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and place into refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour or into the freezer for 30 minutes. 

4. Roll out between two layers of plastic wrap – a little thinner, if you are making the bars.  Cut out circles and bar-shaped strips.

If you do not have suitable cookie cutters you can simply cut strips by hand and cut out circles with the help of a drinking glass. 

5. Bake cookies at 350°F for about 5-10 minutes, depending on thickness. 

For the reindeer:

red chocolate M+Ms
a bit of dark chocolate

Melt the chocolate. Stick the M+Ms to the cookies with a dot of melted chocolate, fill the rest of the chocolate into a Ziplock bag, cut off a small corner and draw the antlers.

For the Nutella-Spekulatius*-bars:

Nutella-Spekulatius ganache:

3 Tbsp Nutella
about 1 oz dark chocolate 
½ cup whipping cream
5 spicy Christmas Spekulatius cookies

Heat the cream in a small pot on the stove top – it may boil briefly.

Take off the stove, add Nutella and chopped up dark chocolate, let sit briefly, then whisk until everything is well combined.
Fill into a bowl and place into refrigerator for about a ½ hour.
In the meantime roughly grind the cookies in a blender or place them into a Ziplock bag and crumble them with the help of a rolling pin.
Stir the cookie crumbs into the cooled ganache, spread about 1-2 tsp onto one of the bar-shaped cookies and top with another one. If you want, you can embellish the bars with sprinkles etc.

*traditional spicy Christmas almond cookie, with ginger and cinnamon

And in case you are in need of some more pre-Holiday spirit:
here is the video of a lovely campaign taking place in an EDEKA grocery store during a regular weekday with real customers – with 13 candid cameras, 9 cashiers and the beat boxer Robeat.

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Sadly, it was very disappointing today in the check-out lane at Edeka when I did not hear one single “Jingle Bells” or any other Christmas song.

When I persistently asked whether they couldn’t at least do one “Silent Night”, the cashier lady first seemed a little confused, but then assured me that she will work on at least this one until St. Nikolaus on December 6.

I will keep you posted!
*in cooperation with Edeka



Thank you to Ginell Studio for translating this post!

My personal advent calendar!

True to the motto “I, too, can have a blast”, you are invited to throw a glance at my very own, personal advent calendar, which I – please note! – made just for myself this year. 

I can’t remember when this idea first crossed my mind, but I suddenly thought: 
"for once I want to make an advent calendar, bursting with all the things I love in December that I will be really happy about and that I will find great use for.” 
The fact that I would have bought some of these things anyway (because the hand cream was used up, e.g., or because I needed gloves), is beside the point here! 

Nobody can bar me from declaring all these beautiful things my personal advent calendar, fill it up to #24 and enjoy it, right? And I am in fact very, very happy about it! 
(No wonder: they are all my December must-haves and exactly what I wish for and consider beautiful ;)). 

Noelle commented yesterday that all of this won’t be a surprise – followed by me preaching about the contents of yesterday’s post, supported by the argument that a chocolate advent calendar does not exactly create the biggest surprise, surprise moment either. 

In my boxes are: 
1. Elisabeth Arden lip balm

As soon as I am in the car, surrounded by heating and A/C, my lips turn extremely dry. 
The lip balm by Elisabeth Arden 8-hour cream does not only enjoy cult status, but actually nourishes the lips to a velvety softness – especially when lips are chapped and a little cracked.
The tin is pretty, for sure, but a bit impractical for on the go – a better option to apply the balm is this tube I always used to have. 

A travel guide for Berlin, featuring a wonderfully clean and aesthetic design: 
Brimming with insider tips, surprising new hotspots and particularly beautiful places far away from the usual tourist routes: Cee Cee’s book is of such high quality that it works as a coffee table book, yet simultaneously so interesting that you can hardly do without.

Or did you know that you can have a Thai picnic in the park in summer, because this type of food is available in this very park? 

3. - 6.
4 pairs of new gloves.

I lose one of my gloves every year – which means that theoretically I have a lot of them, but always just in one color.

As this tends to constantly annoy me, I took action – with 1 pair each of grey and black gloves by Hallhuber, and 1 pair each of dark blue and black ones by Reserved.

7. Tickets for the Hobbit. 

The battle of five armies will be out on December 11. 
Ben and I can hardly wait and already reserved tickets. 

8. Grey cashmere V-neck sweater by Darling Harbour.

Admittedly I already own grey cashmere sweaters – but the most favorite of them did not survive the hot wash ☹. 
(Imagine how fortunate it was that I was the one starting that wash! I would have had to rant so badly otherwise!) 

I have really enjoyed buying Darling Harbour sweaters for the past couple years, since their price-performance ratio is perfect and they are all cut beautifully. 
And a grey V-neck sweater is something you are guaranteed to wear all the time. 

9. Lip balm by Clinique.

Another one of my favorites: if you are looking for a truly rich, very protecting balm that will keep your lips from getting chapped, I recommend this one! 
The balm is rather viscous and last for a long time, since you only ever need a tiny bit.

My advice: apply before going to bed, wake up to velvety soft lips. 

10. - 20.
Star-shaped chocolate truffles by Breuninger Confiserie.
I am extremely picky when it comes to chocolate – yet I could dive into these hand-made star truffles. 
This year with a filling of mulled wine and whiskey! 
(it’s actually my husband’s job to supply the stars. But he forgot about it this year. Me, too! So I was double delighted that I remembered again ;)). 

21. Sequin skirt by H&M.

As you could see, I put the contents of this box to immediate use yesterday – as a glittery skirt has a very bad "cost per wear" balance, I decided to wear it as often as possible!
Yesterday I took it to the museum and to drink hot chocolate with the children, followed by a quick visit to Urban Outfitters.
I will take it to a ballet performance in the near future, to the movies and to the Christmas market for some mulled wine – it is really busy!

For this reason it got its first outing in November already ;). 

I wear the skirt with the Darling Harbour cashmere sweater and opaque tights to make it suitable for daily use. 

If this is too much glitter for you, you might like this lace skirt? It is festive with a little more understatement. 

22. Tickets for a ballet performance. 

It was Noelle’s wish last winter already to go and see a ballet, so this year I went ahead and ordered tickets for Swan Lake.

Whether it is the opera, theater or a classical concert: anything festive that asks for a glittery skirt is a great fit for the pre-Holidays time! 
All you need is a biggish city nearby, then google e.g. “Munich ballet” and you will end up with a selection of lovely performances. 

23. Mou lambskin boots.

Ideal for everybody who wants to have warm feet, but doesn’t like wearing Ugg boots all that much:

I have the Mou boots in grey this year and like them a lot!
And I am not the only one ;).

24. Hand cream by Shiseido.

The advanced essential energy hand nourishing cream by Shiseido is in my opinion one of the best ones there are: my dry hands are no longer a problem and I don’t mind the anti aging either ;). 
The tube goes a long way and the cream is quickly absorbed. 

Some say it is the best hand cream in the world; I wouldn’t go as far as that, but I still think it’s ideal, especially if you have to wash your hands a lot, for example when doing household chores, etc.!

When choosing 24 gifts just for yourself an instant feeling of appreciation and joy about yourself will arise – go ahead and try it!  
The focal point is not how expensive or big the contents is, it is important that they are all things that you personally like and enjoy – it can be as simple as a pair of lovely new socks, red nail varnish or an afternoon in your favorite coffee shop. 

Maybe it will inspire you, too, to pamper yourselves? 

Once more my December must-haves at a glance – if you love cashmere as much as I do you will be happy about the great care items and the peeling comb! 

1. Lip balm by Elisabeth Arden (Douglas)
2. Hand cream by Shiseido (Douglas)
3. Cashmere sweater by Darling Harbour (Breuninger) 
4. Lip balm by Clinique (Douglas)
5. Lamb skin boots by Mou (Zalando)
6. Suede leather gloves in light grey by Hallhuber
7. Care set for cashmere: shampoo, freshening spray and peeling comb by the Laundress (net-a-porter)
8. Sequin skirt by H&M
9. Travel guide by Cee Cee Berlin (Amazon)
10. For those who don’t like wearing skirts: sequin top by Saint Tropez (Zalando)

Which items do you not want to do without in your personal advent calendar? 


p.s. If you are still searching for an advent calendar filled with 24 messages for a loved one: 
You will find it HERE and HERE!

Originally I meant to link a Jazzy lounge playlist for this post.

In reality, though, I keep humming this song the whole time.
I have to pass on this catchy tune – you are welcome! 

This post was translated by Ginnell Studio, thank you so much!

Donnerstag, 27. November 2014

The ultimate guide to gift-giving this Christmas.

"We wish you a merry Christmas” is just around the corner – in reality it should be “We wish you a stressful Christmas” or even better “We wish you a costly Christmas”, to be honest.

However, to ensure that everything is going to be merry for you as love messengers – same as on any other day of the year – I will give you some helpful pieces of advice how to have the world’s best time this December – and above that some practical gift suggestions. 


1. Demystify giving.

Get rid of the myth surrounding the Holidays:

this mysterious, magical, unexplainable emotional high you wish to experience while you yourself or your counterpart opens a present – this is the biggest stress factor. 

This “Oh, he really put a lot of effort into this and has guessed my deepest wish” (because he has supernatural powers – editor’s note) – this exact expectation makes everything incredibly complicated and is all but PREDESTINED to create one disappointment after the other.

Except, of course, you fulfill every ever so rudimentary wish – you will be bust afterwards, but at least your counterpart will be content.

Yet the media dishes out exactly this kind of magical-mysterious concoction and this is the pipedream playing in people’s mental movie theaters: lights are twinkling, man holds a wrapped gift behind his back, woman clasps her hands over her  mouth, utterly surprised and speechless:

"OMG, he actually did think of THAT.”

Dear friends of discriminating entertainment, I tell you the following:  

if this is your idea of gift-giving, first of all you will have a very stressful time each time, then you will be disappointed and at last you will be broke.  

There is only one way for you as a love messenger:
Get rid of it!
Eliminate the emotional myth that surrounds Christmas!
Nobody has to proof to you during the Holidays that he “really loves you” – neither do you have to show anyone that “he is particularly important” by delivering the perfect gift.

At the same time you are not disappointed either, if all you get is, for example, some shower gel – if someone gave you a fragrant shower gel just like that in the middle of October, you’d be happy about it, wouldn’t you?

(Once my friend even gave me her own, half-used bottle, “because they did not have the same kind in the store anymore” – I had to laugh so hard! How cool and relaxed is this attitude, eh?!)


to place sooooo many perceptions and expectations on just one day makes the whole thing unbearable.
The Holidays can be so lovely and relaxed, just like any other day of the year – or as bad as any other day of the year, your call.

You can’t help the others in this matter, but I can address you in honest words:

Cut out these crappy expectations altogether.
Don’t expect that others guess or even fulfill your deepest wishes, or prove anything to you by way of a gift.
And don’t set the bar for yourself too high by conjuring up “something really individual, from the bottom of your heart” for any and every friend and family member – while the amount of time this takes is in fact enormous and you could just as well go swimming with your kids instead.

"But if they are no surprises, everything is so predictable….where is the suspense in that?”


Why do you need suspense during the Holidays?

Suspense and anticipation are all very well, but decompressing and JOY are also wonderfully beautiful energies that suit you so much better, especially when they last all through the month of December!

Or all through the year, right ;)…

This is why you will do without all this “magical Christmas stuff” this year, OK?
This whole emotional orgasm, defying detailed definition and crammed with expectations and childhood memories, exploding under the Christmas tree on this one day.
Either in a positive or a negative way, depending on the budget and how much of an effort the others made.

This applies to you instead:

Love, joy and lightness.
Same as every day. 

I call a spade a spade:
these things run deep!
Some readers will possibly be quite furious, because I just destroyed their picture of “burning candles – man adorning my neck with a Bvlgari necklace” at a single blow.

I don’t care, you can live in your dreams all you want, but the truth is:

it won’t contribute to your happiness.
And it has even less in common with freedom.

This is why you – if you really want to have the best December of all times – have to consciously make a decision AGAINST the myth of Christmas.

AGAINST this “I will be happy when my expectations are fulfilled” stuff.

However, if you do not want to do without gifts that day, I recommend:

2. Say it loudly and clearly.

If I ask my son what he wants for Christmas, I am told clearly and explicitly:

"I want exactly this Lego box.”

Assuming his wish coincides with my budget, the following will happen:

I go to the store.
I find exactly THIS box.
I pay for it.

What was the stress involved in it?

How happy will he be about it?
Perfectly happy.

As he received exactly what he wished for!

You know I don’t really like to set how-to rules, but let’s make an exception here:

1. This year you will ask everybody you would like to give a gift to what he wishes for.

A clear wish without ambiguity.
If he is not able to do so: why give him stuff he didn’t wish for in the first place?! 

2. This year you will spell out one (or two or three, whatever) wish concerning yourself.
A clear wish without ambiguity.
So no: “I want something from Benefit” – but: “I want exactly this powder and this lipstick from Benefit."
IMPORTANT! – you will be perfectly happy about your gift without secretly hoping that “she added something I didn’t expect.”

Do you want to know how happy and relaxed everyone will be?

Perfectly happy and relaxed!

"But if they are no surprises, everything is so predictable….where is the suspense in that?”

Re-read #1!

This year decompression and joy instead of tension!
Can be quite nice, too, you’ll see! 

"So what, if I or someone else would like to receive a gift, but absolutely cannot think of anything?” 

My advice then is to present him with the world’s most beautiful gift, which is: 

3. Write a list.

HERE I told you about the 40 Facts that my daughters wrote down for me and my husband (after we explicitly asked them to, remember)?

One of my absolute favorite gifts of all times until this day, and no matter how often I read it, it brings me renewed joy every time.  

the list should be titled:
"30 (or 10 or 20 or...) facts about ..." – not:
"30 things I love about you.”

Because with this you’d put yourself back under a certain pressure to only write down wonderful and positive things – but 40 facts can also include funny things, weird, everyday things and seemingly unimportant things, which immediately makes the whole thing double as funny and loving.

Trust me!

And lastly a very personal piece of advice from me:

4. If you love gifts and surprises, have a blast – but not during the Holidays.

I personally have highly allergic reactions to expectations and am able to sense these very early on:

as soon as I notice that something is expected from me (with the accompanying disappointment already in tow), I escape from the scene – I value my freedom above anything.

However, all the more so I love having a blast - entirely out of the blue, completely without any expectation, for no reason or following any discernible pattern:

I love spontaneously inviting people for dinner, buying a shockingly expensive pair of shoes for them or something disproportionately big, just because I love the act of giving so much.

All this with one exception: not at Christmas!

Or at least not exactly as people imagine it!

And let me tell you:

it is at least 100 times as much fun!

That’s the whole secret ;).

We will have the most lovely December of all times, we love messengers!

I am so looking forward to it!
We wish you a merry Christmas….


p.s. If you want to know how to cruise through the Holidays all cool and relaxed, read THIS .

p.s. 2

Speaking about “having a blast” – I have to show you something really pretty tomorrow – my very own advent calendar.

p.s. 3

Assuming 2 teenage boys decide to make popcorn, while the mother of one of them has gone out taking care of p.s. 2.
Just assuming they sit down on the couch while waiting, and get up from said couch only after the whole ground floor is filled with black clouds of smoke, and the big sister of one of them can barely breathe, although she is in her room two stories above.

Just assuming the house still exudes a pungent smells of burnt matter even after hours of airing and scrubbing.

Any advice?

(Asking for a friend.)

Thank you for this perfect translation, dear Eva Ginnell!

Dienstag, 25. November 2014

4 steps to casual + most beautiful Holiday decorating.

I have never decorated for the Holidays so fast and in such a relaxed manner than this year – and I think it turned out more beautiful than ever! 
Everything is both casual and sophisticated – just exactly my favorite mix. 

In addition, everything is very easy to realize, as you will not need a florist’s skills or elaborate elements of decoration – I’m sure you have most things still at home, such as:
1. baubles
2. candles
3. boxes
4. and votives.

1. Christmas baubles.
... represent pure Holidays spirit for me – that’s why they make an appearance as early as possible, not only hung on the tree.
For this purpose I added baubles of different shapes and sizes – but similar colors (in my case silver and white) to tall glass receptacles. 
You can use tall vases for this, bowls or hand lanterns – even big storage jars are suitable. 

In order to freshen up the decoration I added  a handful of baubles in geometric shapes to the simple white glass baubles that I have owned for years – I think they match perfectly! I tied a black silk ribbon to particularly big or decorative glass baubles and placed them with the groupings of picture frames and candles.  

2. Candles.
This year I decorated with an emphasis on high-quality scented candles – it adds an elegant touch to the whole picture and has a sophisticated feel. 
My favorite Diptyque candles were used (they occupy the horizontal spaces anyway), as well as the new Isle of Wolf ones and the advent candle by Tine K. home, which exudes a wonderful pine scent this year.  
It is important to make sure that the fragrances are really very delicate and pleasant and are made without the use of synthetic ingredients, so that they don’t trigger headaches. 

A lovely contrast to this arrangement are the slim brass candle sticks from the flea market – they are ones that I purchased more than a year ago, originally for this purpose and the have remained an inherent part of the living room ever since.

3. Boxes.
Too pretty to be solely placed under the Christmas tree: 
Decorative gift boxes form a calming backdrop to baubles and candles.  
I still had some left over ones by Tine K. Home from last year, while the box set by Hay is a brand new addition. 
Very convenient: they do not feature any Christmas-related motifs and can be used all year round.  

4. Super quick advent wreath: 
instead of the usual tall candles I decided to simply use votives this year – as I never care at all for the burned down leftover bits of candles that remain on the wreath so unattractively after each advent Sunday.

The Mugtail cups by Kinto are wonderfully transparent – and can be used as drinking cups after advent is over! 
There are delightful new animal motifs this year, such as reindeer, horse or dog, so everyone can discover their favorite. 
Particularly pretty: since height and width of the cups are all different, they create a fantastic visual effect as a group! 

4 of them on a tray, add a few baubles – done! 

And another idea for an advent calendar for people who do not like crafting all that much, or lack ideas with regard to the contents:
Snack Select carries a calendar this year that allows you to fill the individual cups with organic nuts, dried fruit and other trail mixes.
Ideal for all who need brain food, for example students or college students etc. – but also great for people who don’t only like sweet things.

You can order the calendar at Snack Select.

Sources of supply:

Kinto cups/votives with animal motifs,  
China Christmas bauble 
Tine K. home advent candle 
Brass star with leather ribbon: La Maison

Hay box set: Geliebtes Zuhause

Advent calendar: Snack Select

Good news for all who wish to add to their decoration a little: 

La Maison has a promotion running until 12/7: 
You will receive  20% off your entire purchase! 

I hope you enjoy making things pretty, very relaxed, without pressure with regard to time or performance, as it is my belief that not everything has to be perfect before December 1!  
Main thing everyone is having a good time, right? 


When we were strolling around town yesterday, we wandered into a corner shop: apart from numerous books there were uncountable and very fragile Christmas baubles. Nothing that didn’t exist in form of a glass bauble: small sparkling hedgehogs, Volkswagen beetles with trees on top, nutcracker figurines, etc. etc. – I admit I was a little…intoxicated. 

"When I was little we always had a tree like that: full of the most colorful, glittering things. Oh, some time I would love to have a tree like that again!” 
Noelle: "Excuse me?"
Me: "Well…a Christmas like that. Like the one back then, when I was little.” 
Noelle: "There must be something wrong with my ears?” 
Me (dreamily): "Oh, yesss. I want to pack it with things, and wrap it in color, color and more color. Just like back then, when I …” 
Noelle: "Mom!!! Last year we didn’t even have a tree! What’s with this fit of nostalgia? That’s disgusting, stop it immediately!” 

Another episode in the series: 

"When I had a moment of melancholia, which was abruptly terminated after 30 seconds.” 

Thank you so much, Eva Ginnell, for translating this post!